How homeworking reduced cost per call by 30% compared to bricks and mortar centres

Bupa started its homeworking journey back in 2014.  

From staff satisfaction surveys, the company knew that homeworking was of interest to employees (especially from a work-life-balance (WLB), health & well being and money-saving perspective) and wanted the know-how & expertise to one day offer it to its contact centre agents.  

The Sensée Partnership has allowed Bupa to learn, as well as realise operational benefits including:

  • An expanded recruitment talent pool, especially within the untapped market (i.e. people who couldn’t otherwise get into the office): Bupa’s operations are currently located in two highly competitive areas for contact centre employees – Salford and Staines.
  • Office cost savings: Especially given that Bupa was planning to downsize to a smaller office in Salford
  • Hardware costs: With Sensée’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model, people are responsible for their own equipment/broadband connections,  engendering a different attitude to downtime (with people much more eager to ensure that everything works).
  • Happier employees: Homeworking led to a reduction in unsociable shifts for office workers (with homeworkers more willing to work these shifts) giving rise to less attrition and therefore less new recruitment expense
  • Greater efficiency
  • Business continuity: Setting itself the challenge ‘could we get our homeworking staff up and running from home within 30 mins in the event of an emergency?’

Adding value 

Early on, several Discovery sessions took place around IT, risk, recruitment, training, Learning & Development, and Planning/Scheduling.  Dual Line Management was introduced as Sensée learnt Bupa’s business and Bupa tapped into Sensée’s homeworking management expertise. 30 advisers were recruited. 

By August 2020, numbers had increased to 120 FTE, with Bupa recently requesting a further 30 FTE at short notice to assist with Bupa Mobile App & website queries via webchat, email and telephony.

Sensée advisers manage calls from personal, company & corporate customers.  They deal with everything from detail changes to complex assessments of a customer’s condition against eligibility criteria, on occasions booking treatment.  Advisers often deal with vulnerable customers and are extra vigilant to ensure effective support.  

Sensée is now fully embedded into Bupa’s operation. It is self-sufficient within the Bupa Academy, conducting its own induction coaching rather then relying on Bupa trainers.  Sensée Team Leaders/Managers also frequently speak with Bupa Managers about changes that affect the entire operation – such as Project Evolve, which focused on the unexpected challenges of Covid-19 and involved additional workload for specialist call types. The teams meet weekly to discuss customer complaints and adviser coaching, conducting weekly/monthly staffing & performance reviews.  

Sensée has shared its processes for improving AHT in weekly workshops and, in August 2020, ran a ‘day in the life’ session for Bupa covering: how Sensée people manage/structure their days remotely, use technology to manage remotely, use ‘tone of voice’, and combat isolation/maximise engagement using the Sensée LiveDesk virtual workplace.

Deliverables

The Sensée scheduling model is very important to Bupa.  Bupa models its schedules around fixed patterns (e.g. 9-11 Monday is its busiest period and by the middle of the day often has too many people).  So it uses the flexibility of Sensée’s annualised hours model to staff around peak demand periods, as well as increase staffing during busy seasonal periods (i.e. Jan, Sept, school holidays and Xmas).

Occupancy (i.e. the time advisers actually speak to customers on the phone) is another key factor.  “Sensée runs at 95% occupancy.  Normally we’d be reluctant to do this but it just works” says Bupa’s Tom Doran. “Sensée Advisers can book split shifts in one or 2 hour blocks.  Normally people would get burn out if they worked 7 hours non stop but it works for shorter periods at high occupancy.  We’d love to get our people doing the same but it just doesn’t work in a fixed location centre.  The model allows us to plan overall schedules right down to 30 min intervals.  It’s a tap that can be quickly turned on and off and is therefore very scheduling efficient.” 

Another positive aspect of the Partnership is that it has allowed Bupa to introduce homeworking internally in response to feedback from its people. 

Internal trials began in January 2019 when 10% of Bupa people volunteered to work-from-home part time.  In Feb 2020, that trial was extended to 50%.  The knowledge and experience gained through partnering with Sensée put it in a great position to conduct the trial.  Initially, Bupa experienced some technology issues (hardware, software, headsets etc.) as people made the switch but overall the knowledge/experience it had gained ensured a smooth transition.  

Homeworking quickly became a win-win for Bupa and its people.  Homeworkers reported significant WLB benefits (no commute to work time/costs, spending more time with the family) while Bupa benefitted from reduced absenteeism, enhanced productivity & improved engagement. By early 2020, it started to explore more flexible shift patterns (using the Sensée methodology) for its people. 

In March 2020 everything changed with lockdown – with 90% of Bupa contact centre personnel being asked to work-from-home.  While it wasn’t an easy time, Bupa was well prepared. Understanding the importance of flexible resourcing, Bupa offered its homeworkers flexible shifts so that it could operate for short periods at high occupancy.  The move was so successful that managers reported Advisers frequently asking for more work!  

Bupa dropped no contact centre performance markers during lockdown – and CSAT and Employee Engagement both rose.   

Summary

Summarise what makes this Contact Centre outsourcing partnership so successful and worthy of winning this award.

  • The relationship is a true Partnership with Sensée an effective extension of Bupa’s bricks and mortar (B&M) centres.
  • Sensée consistently delivers against Operational KPIs – including Quality Assurance, Complaint Logging & Resolution and Ex-Gratia Payments.  On occasion, Sensee achieves higher than in-house teams (e.g. July/August 2020 for Complaints Resolution). 
  • Sensée also delivers consistently against Commercial KPIs – including Utilisation (the time advisers are on or available for calls) of circa 83% (pre Covid), Occupancy of 95%, and Contacts Handled per Hour (often 50% greater than in-house). 
  • Bupa only pays for the hours Sensée supplies, not for IT (or other downtime) and is not billed for breaks.  This massively reduces shrinkage and delivers a 20-25% cost saving. Overall, homeworking has reduced cost-per-call by 30% compared to Bupa’s B&M centres.
  • Homeworking has allowed Bupa to dramatically reduce office costs by facilitating the move to a smaller office.
  • Sensée has delivered last minute resource to deal with system outages, power outages, unexpected spikes in demand & unplanned shrinkage on several occasions. Without this, Bupa wouldn’t have been able to serve customers at these critical times.
  • Sensée meets all regulatory requirements including FCA, CQC and Bupa’s internal controls. There is strong governance and excellent communication channels between the management teams.
  • A high level of engagement exists within the Sensée homeworking team and there is close collaboration with Bupa colleagues.  Despite everyone working remotely, the team is very close, regularly holding social sessions – even online Easter and Xmas parties!

 

“Over the last 4 years the Bupa and Sensée relationship has continued to strengthen. Sensée is a trusted partner that provides insight in a transparent and honest way.”

Mark Davies, Customer Contact Director, Bupa

“It’s testament to the technology & professionalism of Sensée that when a Bupa member calls there’s no difference from their perspective whether they’re speaking to an Adviser in a Bupa centre or a Sensée HomeAgent in Scotland.  As we’ve built our internal homeworking over the last two years we’ve always turned to Sensée models & best practices.  They are the benchmark against which we measure our own performance”.

Tom Doran, Remote Working Lead, Customer Contact, Bupa

Using homeworking to extend opening hours and boost employee engagement

Introduction of Family-friendly Shifts

Operating in a fiercely competitive market, this leading insurer is under pressure to optimise every part of its business: people, operations and technology.

As a company that’s committed to its people, it is also keen to maintain high levels of employee engagement and low attrition – a task that’s made difficult by intense labour market competition in and around its two UK centres.

In 2017, as part of its comprehensive Employee Engagement strategy, the company introduced more family-friendly shift patterns within its contact centres – effectively ending shifts after 6pm as well as many weekend shifts.

While regarded as a positive move within the business, it also created a significant resourcing problem. How could it maintain long opening hours (8am – 8pm) when it had fewer people available to work the more inconvenient service hours being offered to customers?

First Homeworking Steps

Homeworking was identified as a possible solution and introduced within a satellite office. Around 120 people were given Citrix-enabled PCs and asked to work-from-home either part or full time. Unfortunately, the trial quickly faltered. Employees had received little prior warning about the move and many found it simply wasn’t for them. With little to no experience of what it took to manage a large team of homeworkers, Managers and Team Leaders also struggled in multiple areas from communication to scheduling, maintaining motivation & productivity, training and monitoring the health & well being of remote workers. The team of 120 people quickly dwindled.

A Pilot Project

It was at this point that the insurer turned to Sensée and, after extensive planning discussions, a 9 month pilot project commenced in April 2018.

The project involved over 134 Sensée advisors providing general phone-based customer service and sales support to the company’s car insurance customers.

Support focused on two key areas. First, evenings and weekends – a strategy that dovetailed neatly with the company’s new family-friendly shift policy. And second, plugging the small scheduling gaps that occurred during the day where the insurer didn’t have the right number of people available, with the right skills, to meet the expected volume and nature of contacts. Sensée’s ability to micro schedule was absolutely key in this regard. With its TeamTonic scheduling solution able to schedule right down to 30 minute slots, the Operations team could simply review its entire daily/weekly/monthly workforce schedule, identify the gaps, and use Sensée personnel to fill them.

It was a flexible approach that delivered significant advantages to the insurer when it came to the commercial arrangement. Rather than specify a precise number of hours required every week/month, it was able to call on Sensée resources via a combination of mandatory hours and on-demand hours using a flexible ‘interval slot delivery’ approach. It also meant that the company only paid for the hours that Sensée delivered.

Moving towards a Longer Term Partnership

Following the conclusion of the pilot in August 2018, the partnership moved forward with changes to the number of contracted mandatory hours, as well as changes in the commercial arrangement.

Under the new approach, the Minimum Contracted Hours (MCH) that Sensée was required to work could be flexed up and down by up to 20% to drive even greater scheduling flexibility, while the requirement to work evenings and weekends was dropped in favour of a mid-week morning focus.

Sensée continued to support the company’s car insurance customers as well as help its client with new business and service calls.

In addition, a new contractual arrangement was introduced that combined payment by productive hours worked with payment by performance. The latter involved a calculation of performance based on 20 key KPIs (from AHT to renewal rate, CSAT, NPS, Quality, New Business sales and more).

The partnership built successfully over the next year. And when the contract was renewed in August 2019, a new skillset was introduced – Renewals. By August 2019, the contract had grown to 212 heads (covering Advisors, Team Leaders, Deputy Team Leaders and Floorwalkers).

Over the next 12 months the Sensée team continued to overcome challenges and frequently went the next step to support its client:

Upskilling the team to email handling to assist during the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis when it was transitioning its own people to home working
Uncovering several ‘ghosting rings’ (where fraudsters have attempted to set up multiple cars on the same policy, or cover multiple drivers on a single policy) potentially saving our client thousands of pounds

Sensée’s advisors and Support & Management remained professional and positive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and feedback from the company’s Internal Quality Team has regularly praised the efforts of Sensée’s advisors. Customer feedback has also been very positive.

2020 Sensée performance against key KPIs is presented in the table below:

Leading Insurer stats

DPD overcomes peak demand challenges with support from Sensée

Background

In 2016 DPD (UK) was looking to introduce a new supplier to support its customer services teams. It was looking for a partner focused on quality and who could provide a flexibility of workforce that could adapt to the changing requirements of a fast-growing and successful business.

Sensée was chosen because DPD felt it could provide flexibility and quality using its scalable homeworking model. The first engagement began in November 2016, with a requirement to ‘go live’ in February 2017.

Following the initial discovery, and a clear understanding of DPD’s requirements, a team was recruited. Virtual training was devised, and systems & processes put in place to support customer service delivery.

Day One

The Sensée advisers started an 8 day induction training on the 8th February, and took their first consumer calls on Monday the 20th February 2017. Once the team was up and running effectively, and achieving its quality and productivity KPIs, a recruitment plan was put in place to meet the retail peak in October and November. This entailed recruiting new teams from August and increasing weekly hours by over 400% within a 10 week period (850 hours per week to 4,000 by the end of November). This also involved changing the shape of the hours provided to ensure that service level was maintained and in accordance with DPD’s priorities.

In 2018, Sensée began to manage emails, including Investigations and Make it Right queues, which have a greater complexity and higher priority. Working with the DPD Planning Manager, Sensée has also been focused on call handling at specific times of day to ensure that the flexible resourcing model is optimised.

Measuring Performance

DPD manages its suppliers through a balanced scorecard methodology, with 5 specific KPIs around quality, productivity, service level and cost. Sensée averaged 95% against these criteria from June 2019 to March 2020, with consistently high levels of achievement in the following areas:

DPD achievements

Sensée came to be seen as a trusted partner that provided insight to DPD in a transparent and honest way. This has supported DPD in its initiatives to improve customer experience and increase efficiency.

Anne-Marie Cunningham (Head of Customer Services, DPD UK) said ‘We are truly delighted with our relationship with Sensée. They are extremely flexible and adaptable to our changing needs, and also proactive in finding better ways of doing things on our consumers behalf.’

Key Partnership Highlights

  • Sensée was able to overcome peak demand challenges in 2018, reducing email queues within 3 weeks of being made responsible for them. High productivity and queue management then maintained this level of service.
  • While focussing on quality of service, Sensée has been able to deliver the lowest AHT scores across the estate through a focused approach to optimising call control. It achieved an AHT in Q1 2019 of 280 seconds against a 330 second target.
  • Sensée has provided DPD with up to 25% extra resource in the form of just-in-time hours in order to cope with unexpected demand challenges. Sensée’s model allows home advisers to quickly sign up to those work hours deemed ‘more unsociable’ should the need arise, through the use of an annualised flex system. This has allowed DPD to move the Sensée resource quickly to problematic queues.
  • The Sensée resource planning team has helped improve consumer call queues by working with DPD to analyse patterns and volumes. This led to the introduction of a peak shaving model which allows sites to work together collaboratively for maximum efficiency and takes advantage of the flexibility Sensée offers. Since the introduction, performance against SLAs has increased by 15% across the estate.
  • Sensée has achieved an overall KPI performance level of 95% for the period July 2019 – March 2020, twice hitting the 100 points level. This composite score includes individual performance scores across KPIs for cost, quality, productivity and customer satisfaction measures.